GALVASTON, Texas – As coastal Texas-based marine businesses make final preparations for Hurricane Ike – predicted to make landfall late tonight or early tomorrow as a high end Category 2 or a low end Category 3 hurricane – an industry already hard hit by economic conditions braces for the impact, from the physical destruction of boats and marine facilities to the potential for increases in gas prices.
A hurricane warning is in effect from Morgan City, La., to Baffin Bay, Texas, and tropical storm warnings are in effect for the southeast Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, including the city of New Orleans, according to The Weather Channel.
If it remains on its current track, Ike is expected to make landfall late tonight or very early Saturday morning in the zone from the Freeport-Lake Jackson area to Galveston, Texas, providing “dangerous, perhaps life-threatening impacts,” largely due to the water level rise anticipated, according to The Weather Channel. Hurricane Ike is larger than an average size Category 2 hurricane, which will likely mean higher than average water level increases, with surges of 25 feet possible at the heads of the bays.
That large size also means a wider path of impact. The National Hurricane Center said Ike's hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 120 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds reach out up to 275 miles, which makes Ike larger than Hurricane Katrina.
Water level rises and growing waves have already impacted the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. Florida newspapers report boat ramp and lock closures in Pensacola and Cape Harbour due to increased tide levels and rain from the hurricane, for example.
The hurricane’s current track takes it near many oil refineries, causing the shutdown of Gulf Coast oil and gas rigs yesterday, according to MarketWatch.com. Despite a general trend of decreasing demand, gas prices increased about 30 percent yesterday in anticipation of the impact.
Hurricane Katrina resulted in the shutdown of four Gulf Coast refineries for more than half a year, resulting in a spike in gas prices. Given that the Gulf Coast produces about 42 percent of the nation's total refining capacity, substantial damage could certainly temper the downward trend in gas prices consumers have enjoyed in recent weeks.
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